Rescuers blasted the remains of a collapsed Chinese bridge yesterday to enable a deeper search for the bodies of about two dozen missing workers believed crushed when it suddenly fell while being constructed, state media said.
Rescuers have found 41 bodies but no signs of life in the days since the bridge's collapse on Monday in the southern tourist town of Fenghuang, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Massive columns of stone and concrete that could not be moved were blasted into smaller pieces early yesterday so rescuers could search underneath for remains, Xinhua said.
Meanwhile, a rights group said yesterday that three Chinese reporters trying to interview bereaved families at the scene were beaten by thugs sent by the Fenghuang government.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said reporters from the Chinese Communist Party's official People's Daily and China Youth Daily newspapers and the state-owned Southern Metropolis Daily were beaten on Thursday and told by local propaganda officials that they had been conducting unauthorized interviews.
The group did not specify the extent of the reporters' injuries.
The collapse was one of the country's worst construction disasters and rekindled concerns about rushed, shoddy work amid China's torrid economic expansion.
State media said 123 construction workers were on the 42m high, 268m long bridge removing scaffolding when it fell.
Sixty-four workers escaped or were pulled from the debris within a few hours of the collapse, Xinhua said.
Around two dozen people were still unaccounted for, the agency said.
Survivors said there had been concerns among the workers about the large size of the four stone arches capping the bridge and the lack of steel reinforcements in the structure, which consisted mainly of stone and concrete.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has called for severe punishment of those responsible.
Two officials from the builder, state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Co, have so far been detained.
Construction of the bridge began in March 2004, and it was due to open to traffic at the end of this month.
Xinhua earlier said the stone and concrete bridge had been chosen over a safer and more modern steel structure to ensure ``it remained in harmony with the natural environment.''